Global Civil Society: The Progress of Post-Westphalian Politics

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Despite lingering ambiguity surrounding the concept, global civil society is acclaimed by those who think they belong to it, and validated by international governmental organizations seeking legitimation for their activities. Its enthusiasts believe global civil society presages a more congenial kind of politics that transcends the system of sovereign states. Its critics deride its un-representativeness and complicity in established power relations. The critics can be answered by more subtle accounts of representation and by highlighting contestatory practices. Appreciation of the promise and perils of global civil society requires moving beyond preconceptions rooted in dated ideas about civil society and democracy as they allegedly function within states. Irrespective of the sophistication of such post-Westphalian moves, global civil society remains contested terrain, involving interconnected political and intellectual disputes. International relations theory proves less useful than it should be in clarifying what is at stake. Democratic theory can be brought to bear, and this encounter sheds new light on what democracy itself can entail
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)101-119
Number of pages19
JournalAnnual Review of Political Science
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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